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Critique the July 2010 GDS games here!

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sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

Use this thread to post constructive critiques of the entries to the July 2010 Challenge in the Game Design Showdown series.

This month's Challenge was entitled "My Summer Vacation".


sedjtroll's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
Critique thread open!

The votes are in, and the winner of the Game Design Showdown "My Summer Vacation" is...

Sandcastles by dobnarr!

Use this thread to critique and discuss the entries.

  • Seth
simons's picture
Joined: 12/28/2008
My comments

So, I didn't actually participate in this one, but I always enjoy getting feedback on my games, so thought I would do the same for people in this round.

Are we there yet?- Great concept for a game. Really captures summer break. I’m not sure where time fits in as a resource. Also, the winner in this game seems really arbitrary (it’s really just who moves it the last spot, rather than who moved it during the rest of the game?). The game also feels too luck based for my taste (is there any strategy involved?).

The family that tans together- I like the simple components, and simple, yet elegant, rules. Funny theme. You might run into problems when you get down to only 2 players (since one win would restore you to your full 3 health, and a player would really need to win 3 games in a row to win), but otherwise it seems pretty tight. I really like it! However, I couldn’t vote for it, because you didn’t use time as a resource.

Sandcastles- (3 votes) It’s so rare that you see a free-for-all non-turn-based game like this. You pull it off really well. The rules seem really simple, but well done. I’m debating what I think about the bullying part. It seems unnecessary. I would definitely play this.

Day at the fair- (1 vote) Cool idea. I really like the way you handle time and turn order. The scoring is a little confusing, and I’m not quite sure how the feel of this game is, but overall I thought it was a really good idea. Definitely worth trying out.

Yard sale- (2 vote) Interesting idea for a game. Simple, and pretty understandable. My one issue with the game is that it is possible to sell items to a family, even if they don’t want it, as long as no one else is trying. It feels like there should be some minimum value of liking something (or maybe everyone trying so hard to sell will create that minimum).

dobnarr's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
My feedback

I enjoyed this month's contest - it led to interesting entries, and the theme and restrictions were more wide-open than some months. Thanks for running it! Here are my comments.

Entry #1 - Are We There Yet?

I like the name and theme of this game - very cute. This seems like a game that kids might enjoy. It's a very simple game, similar to many children's games on the market, and it's nearly entirely luck based - the only way one could try to win would be managing the route and the boredom near the end to try to ensure the final turn ends up theirs. This might be frustrating, because the first 90% of the game would involve nearly no strategy or planning, and even after that, the players' choices would be limited if they wanted to try to ensure the win.

The game seems to score the bonus votes, and it sort of has time as a resource.

Entry #2 - The Family that Tans Together

Again, a fun theme. I really like how this uses everyday components (a deck of cards and coins) - that makes it much easier to visualize and understand in a competition like this. There would be some interesting strategy, both initially as you try to bid high but not tie, and then even more later on as you start to know what cards people have left. It would work as a perfect information game, too, where you had access to all ten of your cards rather than four at a time, but the smaller hand might make for a better game - I'd have to play it to see how I liked it better.

The sunblock mechanic is also cool, although I think it might be broken as described. As the number of players gets reduced, you might have problems, because in a three player game, you're producing two burns and curing two each turn, so there's no net progression to the end of the game. Somebody has to be persistently unlucky to lose. In the two player game, you're producing one burn and curing two each turn, so you'd only have to win one out of three tricks to break even - somebody would have to lose three tricks in a row to go out, and I bet that's not too likely unless they draw very poorly.

This doesn't really have time as a resource, but it does (very loosely) have a family theme for the bonus points.

Entry #3 - Sandcastles

This was my entry.

Entry #4 - Day at the Fair

This has an engaging theme, and a lot of complexity. I like some of the mechanics, such as the various lines and random crowd members. There's a fair amount left unspecified, although I liked what I did see (e.g. the events - the Strong Smell one is priceless. A picture of some of the cards or of the board would have gone a long way to making all of this clearer.

The time mechanic is cool - bumping the time tokens forward and then giving the turn to the player who's back at the earliest time is neat. Going through 16 hours in 10-minute increments might be a little too much resolution, though - that's 96 squares on the time track, which I guess isn't too much longer than the scoring tracks on some games, but it's a lot of spaces.

One concern I have is that the scoring is quite complex, with interlocking bonuses and such, and that the rest of the game also requires a good deal of accounting, what with managing the travel times, the waiting times, and messing with the lines and the neutral people in the crowd. Maybe all of that would be easy and/or fun, but I'd think it might be best to try to reduce that aspect of it somehow.

The game has the family bonus theme loosely engaged, but it's present (as present as in the other entries). This has what I think is maybe the best (and most literal!) use of time as a resource in the competition here.

Entry #5 - Yard Sale

I like the theme here, too - the yard sale is a neat way to set up the game elements. I think it would be fun to play, especially if the pitch rules were all as interesting as the three shown.

In terms of mechanics, there are some parts that would be a bit difficult to keep track of. For example, keeping track of how long each shopper has been shopping is tough. It's not clear also whether the shoppers have a total budget, so you'd have to deduct each round they're around, or whether the budget is renewed each turn.

Giving players who've sold all their goods two extra cards to sell seems like a needless slippery slope thing, helping out somebody who's already winning, but I guess it might help in the case where you get dealt only very cheap items and don't have a chance to make a lot of money even when selling out. Testing (and seeing some of the other cards) might help here.

Sixteen turns might be too long for this game, but again, testing might help determine that. If people were playing reasonably, a turn would never take 15 minutes of real time, so that seems quite unnecessary to add. It also means that the first player could take 15 minutes making his first move, thereby denying the others a chance to do anything, and thus win by default.

The time-as-a-resource part is kind of present, although not really. The 15-minute limit thing above doesn't work, as I've said above, and the shifting of the shoppers isn't really a resource the players can manage. The family part is loosely present (but again, as present as in any of these entries).

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